Tag Archives: fit

Why we need to “broaden” the Definition of Exercise

If you haven’t seen it already, I am sorry to be the one to bring this to your attention.  The news agencies have begun to pick up on a “study” that shows that fat women exercise, on average, for one hour per year.  Now naturally, I found this highly suspicious.  Nearly every fat person I know exercises more than that.  It seemed extremely unlikely to me, so I held my nose and started reading the articles and checking into the study.

Now the articles that are reporting about this study sport headlines like: “Obese Women Get One Hour Vigorous Activity Per Year”. (Warning, link leads to article with obligatory “headless fatty” picture.) But let’s look at a few things here.  First of all–the study asked the participants to wear accelerometers for 10 hours per day for 4 days.  Based on the findings from the accelerometers they extrapolated how much “vigorous activity” each participant got over the course of a year.  There were not a lot of participants in the study, and the participants were not all fat.  In fact, nobody in the study got very much exercise based on how they defined exercise.  Even those in the thin categories only got about 10 hours of exercise per year–far, FAR below what is recommended for good health.

So what is going on here?  Well the main thing that’s happening, is the the study makes the definition of “vigorous activity” extremely narrow and then reports how few people fit their definition of activity.  The study uses accelerometers which are known to only measure a very specific type of physical activity.  Typically accelerometers are good at recording lower body movements of a certain type (walking, running, climbing stairs) and not really good at recording many activities of daily livings (ADLs).  Further more, it appears that the study uses a short period of time to calculate the activity.  (4 days is considered the minimum by some standards and below the necessary threshold of measured time by others.)

The main issue here is that while the study’s definition of vigorous activity is really narrow, may of the headlines don’t reflect this.  I’ve yet to see a single headline that says “Fat people spend nine hours less per year running and jumping rope than thin people.”  But in essence, that’s what we’re talking about here.  It just gives the fat people a lot more ammo to throw at people of size.

It also gives people of size more reason to believe that they are both inactive and unhealthy.  And believing you are inactive and unhealthy can help make you inactive and unhealthy.  A recent study involved two groups of  hotel workers who had moderately active jobs.  In the study, one group of workers were told that their daily work “counted” as exercise and the other group were told that their daily work “didn’t count” as exercise.  Then they took a host of health metrics down the road.

According to the study:

Although actual behavior did not change, 4 weeks after the intervention,the informed group perceived themselves to be getting significantly more exercise than before. As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index.

In other words, if you believed the activity you are doing “counts” as exercise and will help make you healthy, it is more likely to do just that.

In this light, it is difficult to understand what good will come from narrowing people’s definition of what constitutes healthy activities.  In my certification process, I was taught that there are three main categories of exercise–cardiovascular training (aerobic exercise), resistance training (strength training) and flexibility training (stretching).  I was taught that all three of these are very important to health.  But the “fat ladies get one hour of exercise study” only counts a small percentage of one of these categories as exercise.  It doesn’t count resistance training or flexibility at all.  It doesn’t count cardiovascular activity based in water or that primarily uses the upper body.  It doesn’t count many forms of walking, cycling or jumping as vigorous activity despite failing to take body weight or heart rate into account.

In fact, of the 60 activities listed in the Fit Fatties Virtual Decathlon, less than ten of them would be likely to be accurately measured by an accelerometer.  And it would be difficult to determine how many of those would be considered “vigorous” enough to count in this study.

But our bodies are smarter than this study.  And our bodies love joyful, physical movements of all different types.  We know that shame doesn’t work, and we know that believing you are engaged in healthy behavior makes it more likely that you will receive benefits from that healthy behavior.  With that in mind, it seems like we should be actively working to expand the definition of what “counts” as exercise and providing as many examples of people of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities, who are smiling and doing this stuff as is possible.

With that in mind we are going to be inviting you to tweet some of your absolutely gorgeous pictures of healthy, happy, and fabulous activities in an upcoming project.  Stay tuned for the details.  In the meantime, keep having fun and keep moving your glorious bodies in lots of different and happy ways.  It all counts.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to make sure you are the first to know about fabulous fit fatty projects and get some free stuff?  Don’t forget to join my group!

 

 

 

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Boy Scouts, BMI and Managing Risk

Would the BSOA deem Russell “too fat” to go to camp?

Yesterday, I read Ragen Chastain’s amazing post on the new policies implemented by the Boy Scouts of America regarding participation in events and BMI.  In order for any Boy Scout to participate in a “high adventure” activity which includes a duration of over 72 hours and being over 30 minutes drive from emergency medical services, his parents and doctors must fill out a group of forms including Part C which has a whole lot of questions about BMI.  In fact questions about height and weight are the first things listed on the form before listing any pre-existing conditions or other information about disease or wellness.  Any scout with a BMI over 40 will be forbidden from participating in these high adventure activities (including the Jamboree).  And according to the site:

The Jamboree Medical Staff will review all applicants with a BMI of 32.0–39.9 and consider jamboree participation based on  1) health history, 2) submitted health data, and 3) recommendation of the applicant’s personal health care provider. For applicants with a BMI >31.9, a recommendation of “no contraindications for participation” by the applicant’s personal health care provider does not necessarily guarantee full jamboree participation. The jamboree medical staff will have final determination of full jamboree participation.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSOA) site, lists these reasons for the new restrictions:

“Anyone who is obese and has multiple risk factors for cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary disease would be at much greater risk of an acute cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary event imposed on them by the environmental stresses of the Summit. Our goal is to prevent any serious health-related event from occurring, and ensuring that all of our participants and staff are “physically strong.”

And frankly, all of this sent me scrambling for my manuals and training information about exercise in children.  One question I had right away was, “Are they using data for all-cause mortality in adults and extrapolating that information for children?”  Because, the data I’ve reviewed indicate that mortality among exercising children and teens comes from different sources that that of adults.

According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, the number one cause of death among exercising young athletes is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).  During my fitness certification training, I learned that the number one cause for SCA is a heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle.  Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions likely to lead to SCA are often virtually undetectable from a standard physical exam.  This is why many schools are starting to recommend and a few are beginning to require a EKG for participation in strenuous school sports.  When SCA occurs, death often follows.  Being close to a hospital only helps so much as mortality risk increases by 10 percent for every minute it takes to get to medical care.  This is why there is a greater focus on CPR and Automatic External Defibrillators for helping to protect student athletes these days.

I am not aware of any research indicating that SCA is more frequent among overweight or obese young athletes.  I am also unaware of any efforts on the part of the BSOA to ask that participants in high adventure activities be screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or be given an EKG as part of the Part C form.  Now, I understand that an EKG can be expensive to administer and read, but if the concern is really about the safety of the participants, it would seem that this is a more important test than BMI.

Another important risk for kids and strenuous exercise is heat stroke.  And there is some research that indicates that heat illness is more frequent among overweight and obese football players than “normal weight” players.  But many experts stress that exertional heat illness is 100 percent preventable.  Most experts strongly recommend an acclimation process to help get student athletes ready for physical exertion.  The super punishing, first day of practice workouts in full pads and gear is now frowned upon.  I wonder if the Jamboree and other “high adventure” scouting activities really do enough to help scouts of all sizes acclimate to higher temperatures and altitudes or if they simply assume that as long as the kids are skinny, they will be safe.

Which makes me wonder.  Where is the data?  Show me the data that BMI has a serious impact on safety for children and youth who wish to participate in strenuous physical activity.  Do not simply show me studies from adults and extrapolate down to kids.  And if the health and safety of your scouts is of primary importance, why are you not requiring adequate screening for the leading cause of death among young exercisers?  Are you building adequate acclimation days to make the camp safe for participants?  Or again, are  you assuming skinny = safe and healthy?  And why are you making your most important event so strenuous that you have to worry so much about health and safety in the first place?

To borrow from a famous phrase from the film Jerry Maguire, “Show me the data!”

Love,

TFC

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

Buy my DVD: The Fat Chick Works Out! (A Safe, Easy and Fun Workout for Klutzes, Wimps and Absolute Beginners!)

Buy a book or a DVD for a friend and save $5!  Just enter FRIENDBLFT in the discount code box!

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Your Big Fat ASSumptions: The Right Now Show Episode 014

donkeys-who-assume

Today’s episode of the Right Now Show shares two things that you may safely assume when looking at a fat person.  We also discuss five Big Fat ASSumptions that we routinely make about people of size and whether or not those assumptions have any validity.  Enjoy watching, and don’t forget to share with all your friends:

Here’s some additional information and resources you may want to consult after watching the show:

Want to join a whole lot of other people enjoying exercise in an environment which is free of fat shaming at weight loss talk?  Check out the Fit Fatties Forum!

Want to stay up to date on the very latest info about fat and health?  Join the Fat Chick Clique.  It’s free!

Here’s a link to a lot of the most recent research about Fat and Health on my website.

Here’s some more information about fat and shame on my blog:

Here’s a comprehensive review about fat and health which reviews over 100 other major studies about fitness, fatness and health:

Here’s some information offered by the Association for Size Diversity And Health about Health At Every Size (R):

P.S. Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

Buy my DVD: The Fat Chick Works Out! (A Safe, Easy and Fun Workout for Klutzes, Wimps and Absolute Beginners!)

Buy a book or a DVD for a friend and save $5!  Just enter FRIENDBLFT in the discount code box!

Check out my Training Programs–both in person and via Skype (Starting at just $25!)

or

Book me to speak at your special event!

The Right Now Show 008: Fit Fatties Cross the Finish Line!

In this episode, we watch the Fit Fatties as they enjoy the final leg of their virtual journey–swimming, cycling, walking, running and dancing across the USA. Watch as they issue a new challenge to Fit Fatties Around the World!  The Fit Fatties are members of the Fit Fatties Forum created by Jeanette DePatie (www.thefatchick.com) and Ragen Chastain (www.danceswithfat.com).

Learn more and join the new challenge at http://www.fitfatties.com.  And if you’re enjoying the show, don’t forget to subscribe!

Love,
Jeanette DePatie
AKA The Fat Chick

Big Girls on the Red Carpet

Jeanette working the Red Carpet with the two directors of the Haute Curves Fashion Show for LA Fashion Week: Angela Rene’ AKA “The Purple Diva”, CEO of PurpleDivaDesigns.com and Jasmine Epperson, CEO at Kris Eliza Boutique

On the list of things we big girls are told we will never experience, you can add wearing beautiful clothes.  As a kid, I never thought I’d get to wear gorgeous things and the idea that there would be plus-sized models seemed extremely remote.

So in my week of saying “neener, neener, neener” to the list of stuff we fluffy folk “shouldn’t expect to enjoy,” I’m telling you that the models ROCKED THE HOUSE at this past weekend’s Haute Curves fashion show for LA Fashion Week.  For over two hours we watched unbelievably gorgeous men and women of all sizes, small to super-sized, strut down the runway in some extremely gorgeous clothes.  And folks, these were not your mama’s muumuus.  There was an awful lot of extremely beautiful clothes from delightfully weird to sporty to super sexy on that runway.  Angela and Rene put on an absolutely spectacular event!

The Fat Chick near the runway at the Haute Curves fashion show.

So besides the need to feed my considerable ego by showing you pictures of the cool thing I got to do on Saturday night, why am I sharing this with you?  I think it’s important to bust myths about what people of size can expect for their lives.  I know for me, the panic over the things I thought I would miss as a plus-sized woman, like true love and a kickin’ black leather skirt I could wear, once filled me with feelings of panic.  And I think in some cases our loved ones (especially our parents) are unduly fearful of the things we will miss out on or can’t have if our bodies are larger than societal ideals.

It took several decades, but I now realize that there is virtually nothing completely unavailable to me as a person of size.  (Well maybe a comfortable coach-class airplane seat, but I’m not sure ANYBODY feels comfortable in one of those.)  And it has taken several decades, but those who love me most have come to realize that I can do all that I want and have all that I dreamed of without losing 100 pounds first.  And let me share with you, it has been an absolute blessing and a joy for all of us to just calm the heck down about the whole thing.

Yes Virginia, there is a Sexy Santa Claus costume just for you.  There’s even a fabulous black leather skirt in your size, just waiting for you to claim it.

Love,

The Fat Chick